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Episode 30: With John Sauven

In this week’s podcast – the final episode of the series before we break for Easter – Patrick speaks to John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK. Together, they discuss the urgent need to transform our food and farming systems in order to successfully tackle climate change and biodiversity loss.

Starting off with the topic of health, the two highlight the vital role food plays in strengthening our immune systems – a theme which has been central to discussions around COVID-19 and which will remain crucial in protecting us against future pandemics. They particularly focus on the importance of healthy diets within schools, emphasising the need to move away from overly processed food and industrial farming to protect future generations.

Moving forwards, John talks about his ongoing passion for biodiversity and the natural world, which was one of the driving forces for his career in environmental activism.  He mentions the urgency of biodiversity loss, a planetary boundary that we have already crossed. ‘We are destroying millions of years of evolution’, he warns, highlighting the fragility of our natural systems.

On the topic of biodiversity, Patrick is keen to understand John’s thoughts on the land sparing vs land sharing debate. Does he support David Attenborough’s perspective that we should sustainably intensify food production on our best agricultural land, leaving more land for rewilding? Or, should future food production systems work in harmony with nature, increasing biodiversity across the whole farm?

Finally, they discuss the responsibility of large corporations and governments in driving the significant change our food systems so desperately need, rather than pinning the responsibility onto consumers. Both supermarkets and governments need to go further in making good, healthy food available for everyone, while reducing the impact of that food on the environment – a challenge which Greenpeace is ready to tackle.

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John Sauven has been Executive Director of Greenpeace since 2007. His first campaign at Greenpeace was helping to protect the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada in the mid-90s. Since then John has been instrumental in many campaigns, some of his achievements include: securing a moratorium on forest destruction in the Amazon by soya producers; forming a coalition between energy companies to promote offshore renewable energy and steering the creation of the Rang-tan video, exposing deforestation for palm oil, which was watched by over 70 million people.